Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at aridhianderson.com.
A celebration of wokeness and feminist rage
Victoria Falconer, Tessa Waters, Rowena Hutson, Laura Frew and Sharnema Nougar come together in Fringe Wives Club: Glittergrass, a thoroughly energetic, musically stunning celebration of feminist history and feminist rage. It's a visual delight with its retro-feel wigs, sequined costumes, glitter, and of course, charismatic and interactive performances. More than all that, it's a thought-provoking and informative work, an extravaganza of wokeness and pride, a work that you can't just be a passive spectator to: it will affect you.
While Glittergrass certainly doesn't paint a comprehensive picture of feminism, it does a pretty fantastic job of answering the question "Why are feminists so angry?". These fierce femmes are done with the bullshit of patriarchy, whether it's about women's achievements being ignored (ever heard of the lady bushranger Jessie Hickman? Thought not - let these women tell you!) or whether it's about unsolicited advice on how to "manage" their emotions (mindfulness, anyone?). The Wives (a term they're collectively reclaiming) are badass, and don't need anyone's permission to be who they are. And if you have a problem, you can get in the sea.
This show is full of strong performances, every one of the wives is brilliant at what they do. Victoria Falconer and Laura Frew stand out in particular, though. Falconer positively owns the stage, and Frew's energetic performance and endearing characterization brings much needed balance to the show. In fact, the show really started to come to life for me when the wives first showed their "softer" side, embracing Frew's (character's) somewhat timid and hesitant place within the feminist movement. The wives are angry, and they don't put up with crap, but they're also sympathetic to people whose "heart is in the right place" - experiencing things differently doesn't mean you can't belong.
Having said that, the show did feel like it could have done more with the conversation about differences. There were references in the beginning about racial privilege and taking steps to fix things, and there was a sequence towards the end which made a point about intersectionality, mainly by parodying how people sometimes "do feminism" with inappropriate photo ops and ignorant self-congratulation. The parody was well done, but it didn't really resolve that point or show a better way - and despite the presumption of wokeness among the audience, I do wonder if enough was said for people to be able to grasp what was being implied. This aspect of the show left me with mixed feelings.
As with a number of shows at the Comedy Festival, this show also involves moments of intense audience interaction. If you enjoy interactive performances, you'll like the experience in the front rows - the performers are genuinely friendly and fun (and will climb over seats to sit on your knee, consensually). If you find that sort of thing intimidating, though, maybe choose a seat further back or towards the sides.